On Thursday 18th March Hertsmere Borough Council officers and elected members held a virtual session to update the local community on their plans for the former Bushey Country Club site.
Council leaders have somehow managed to devise a plan for Bushey Country Club which ignores everything residents called for - and has precious little benefit for the local community. They ran a long public consultation process but rejected its findings and imposed their own scheme anyway. They want to ruin a precious greenbelt asset by building a superfluous school; will shut the public out of half the grounds; and have dodged crucial questions about housing and open space.
The enormous school - with nearly 2,000 pupils, would be the biggest in Hertfordshire - is the centrepiece of the plan. Only *two* residents, out of the 1,000 who took part in the consultation on the site's future, wanted a school.
Bushey already has three state secondary schools, and a fourth will only increase the already large number of pupils who commute into Bushey from Watford, Stanmore, Radlett and Borehamwood (which is larger than Bushey but has only one secular high school). The lie of the land and problems with traffic access also make it a very impractical location for a school.
We believe Hertsmere chiefs put the school into the plan to distract us from two key issues: how much greenspace will remain open to the public, and how many homes will be built on the site. They were last night unable to provide answers on either question - or indicate how much of the new housing will be affordable. Why are they afraid to tell us?
But it's been suggested, too, that Tory-run Hertfordshire County Council (who oversee education) have imposed the school on Hertsmere Borough Council and insisted on this site. If so, how on earth have Sean Quilty and Jane West, Bushey's Conservative County Councillors, sat back and let this happen?
In terms of the plans for residential development, the housing earmarked for the Merry Hill side is also bound to cause major traffic problems, because of the very narrow, pavement-less road at that location.
All in all, the plans are far worse than we feared. They amount to extensive development, and once the school grounds are taken into account, it appears that less than half of the old Country Club grounds will be open to the public. This is a far cry from the 75-90% residents called for during the consultation - and which our council leaders have ignored.
For the community facilities proposed for the site, details were very sketchy. While we welcome the possibility of a museum, library, nature trail and play areas, the plans were very lacking in imagination. We'd like to see the retention, and expansion of the Bushey Centre, a theatre, and a cafe, at least.
Overall, Bushey deserves far better. We're calling for a total rethink, and for Hertsmere's council leaders to finally start listening to what residents actually want from the Country Club - a greenfield community facility with minimal development.
Their lack of concern for the public is very clear from their failure to post online any of the slides or data from yesterday's presentation - and from the way they've shut out all the Bushey North borough councillors from any involvement in the site's consultation process.
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